Are cubicles going extinct?

Inside Mr. Youth's cubicle-less office.

TEXT OF STORY

Kai Ryssdal: This is the time of year when people start looking ahead to try to get some feeling for what the future might bring. Take the office, a place we spend a lot of time. It's been changing quite a bit as businesses try to save space and money.

Today the Los Angeles Times observed the cubicle is shrinking. We sent reporter -- and cubicle veteran -- Stacey Vanek Smith to explore the cubicle of the future.


Stacey Vanek Smith: Full disclosure: I love my cubicle. But evidently, this makes me a workplace throwback. Tom Polucci is director of interior design for arichitecture firm HOK.

Tom Polucci: The Dilbert cartoon where everyone's working in a cubicle farm, that's really disappeared.

Polucci says cubicles are shrinking -- most now are 6 feet by 6 feet. Part of it is money. Office space is a company's biggest expense after salaries. But it's also just the way we work now.

Polucci: Workplace has become much more collaborative. You might be sitting in a smaller personal space, or what I like to call a me space, because you're tending to work more in environments when you're shared with your colleagues. And I like to refer to those spaces as we spaces.

One workspace with a lot of we-space is social marketing firm Mr. Youth and CrowdTap. Most people work at tables or have their desks in clusters. Company CFO Dan LaFontaine says it's fun and practical.

Dan LaFontaine: It's incredibly efficient. Rather than have some kind of formal meeting, it's very easy just to grab a couple of people and stand around one area very quickly and get done what you need to get done.

LaFontaine's workers are young -- average age? About 26. He says they don't really want the privacy of an office or a cubicle.

LaFontaine: They're putting their whole lives up on Facebook and on Twitter and everywhere else anyway. There's no real reason they should hide behind a cubicle wall.

Still, LaFontaine says, the office of the future does have some drawbacks.

LaFontaine: Sometimes it gets a little bit noisy and there are those days when you want to walk in and just have peace and quiet and get things done.

Vanek Smith: Did a microwave just go off?

LaFontaine: That was a microwave, I believe that's popcorn you smell.

In New York, I'm Stacey Vanek Smith from Marketplace.

About the author

Stacey Vanek Smith is a senior reporter for Marketplace, where she covers banking, consumer finance, housing and advertising.

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